Guest blog by Tony Kokkad. Tony helps people learn about CallHub, which is bridging the communication gap for political campaigns, nonprofits and advocacy groups across the world through its Voice and SMS cloud based services.

The 2016 Australian federal elections saw volunteers from advocacy organization GetUp have 45,000 phone conversations with swing voters across the country through the CallHub platform, a number that would seem inconceivable with traditional phone systems. Without the CallHub platform, it would take volunteers 5 times as long or more to physically dial these numbers.

“Together, GetUp members had heartfelt, one-on-one conversations with swing-voters in these seats about the issues that matter most – from the urgency of investing in renewable energy, to desperately needed health and hospital funding. And GetUp members helped fund the ad campaigns that drove these messages home,” quotes the GetUp media page.

Having “heartfelt, one-on-one conversations” is how you get supporters invested in your cause. And phone calls are the next best thing to face-to-face conversations to achieve that.

Campaigns like these that would once have required massive infrastructure, funds, and personnel are now within the reach of small and mid-size nonprofits. Cloud telephony has effectively equalized the playing field for campaign outreach.

Mobile as the future of communication

95% of Americans now own a cellphone of some kind and the trend is only increasing with each passing year. Outreach for fundraising, mobilization, and organizing has gravitated almost in whole towards smartphones. Mobile is defining how nonprofits reach out to their supporters. In the current scenario, you could say that better communication is about finding a better way to communicate over mobile.

Emails are driving a lot of this communication with 41% of email opens happening on mobile devices. But the stats paint a bleak picture of its effectiveness. The 2016 Nonprofit Email Deliverability Study found that 7.03% of emails end up in spam costing nonprofits an average of $7,401 every year. As for the emails that did make it through, only 15.94% of them were opened with a click rate of 0.43%.

The problem persists because nonprofits keep relying on email to drive every part of their outreach. But while email may be a good solution for certain parts of your outreach, some tasks ask for the kind of engagement that only telephony can give. These statistics point directly to the importance of a diversified solution for nonprofit communication. Time sensitive sign-up campaigns and fundraisers, RSVPs, live campaign updates, etc., cannot afford to be glanced over, marked as spam or ignored. And there is a bigger chance of that happening when your communication relies solely on email.

Telephony and supporter engagement

A nonprofit’s success depends a lot on how well it can tell stories. Unlike a business whose stories are about making the product look good, a nonprofit tells stories about people, their struggles, their hopes, and how they are making a world a better place. These are stories that people want and love to hear, but only when they’re told with honesty and passion. When you are on the phone with donors or supporters, hearing a real person speak lets them pick up on the subtle cues that convey the essence of your story. Emotions are more at risk of being lost in translation when it comes to the written word. That’s not the case with phone calls.

But engaging every person in a one-on-one conversation may not always be feasible. Maybe your campaign is strapped for time or you could not spare volunteers to make calls. Cloud telephony can still drive engagement through features like voice broadcasting, SMS, and patch-through calling.

Patch-through calling in particular has gained a lot of attention with advocacy groups because of the effectiveness with which it connects citizens with lawmakers. Volunteers call up citizens and guide them on issues that affect them. When the citizen is informed, you can ‘patch’ them through to their local representatives. Political pundits have time and again praised patch-through as an effective way to give supporters the initial impetus to break free of their passive bubbles of inaction.

Text messaging on the other hand is ideal for time sensitive campaigns and to send recurring updates about donations or nonprofit activities. A study found that 90% of texts are read within the first three minutes. This means that your sign-up campaigns, fundraising drives, donor nudges, and campaign updates are seen and responded to within a very short time frame. Faster feedback loops lets nonprofits fine tune and tailor their outreach strategy for increased ROI.

The growth of cloud telephony and the features associated with it reflect the importance the industry assigns to communicating through phones. Unless a new technological wave can overthrow the age of smartphones (which is highly unlikely), mobile will remain the primary channel to communicate and engage with your supporters.

Making the final decision

The best way to make up your mind about cloud telephony is to try it out of yourself. The pay-as-you-go pricing means that you can start small, experiment, and see if it works for you. If it does, you’ve just found a brand new outreach channel! Starting small ensures that you iron out the faults in your strategy before you scale up your operations. If you don’t have a strategy in place, carve out a sample group from your contacts and reach out to them. Continuously assess the feedback you receive and tailor your outreach. It may take some getting used to, but if you’re willing to experiment you’ll soon figure out the approach that works best for your nonprofit organization.